There’s not much opera in Scotland these days: Glasgow and Edinburgh have just one staging between now and January. Concert versions, though cheaper to promote, are equally rare, so this Don Giovanni, given just a couple of performances by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, was eagerly seized upon – not least because the cast was superior to anything Scottish Opera can afford. But its real interest stemmed from Robin Ticciati, the SCO’s twenty-something chief conductor.
Having proved his mettle at Glyndebourne and Covent Garden, Ticciati now has a range of glittering international engagements. Will he suffer Daniel Harding’s fate, of being pushed too far too soon? Judging by his Don Giovanni, which he will reprise next summer at Glyndebourne, the answer must be “no”. Indeed, it can only be a matter of time before the Sussex house announces his appointment as music director in succession to Vladimir Jurowski, who is stepping down in 2013.
Ticciati has the shoulders to carry it off. This performance had fizz, clarity, sweep, intensity, grace. He has inherited that last-named attribute from his mentor, Colin Davis, and it distinguishes his Mozart from other young conductors, most of whom thrash the “period” baton – revved-up tempi, crude accents – without showing the slightest awareness of the music’s charm. Ticciati’s Don Giovanni had bags of charm. He shaped the ensembles and arias elegantly, giving his singers room to breathe – much to the benefit of the Champagne aria, which registered here as an aristocratic flourish, not a stampede. But thanks to the SCO’s schooling under Charles Mackerras, the playing had all the period manners one could wish for.
Giovanni was sung by Florian Boesch, a suave presence with honeyed voice. Kate Royal’s Donna Elvira summoned the temperament she tried and failed to convey at Glyndebourne this summer, though the voice is still a size too small and her Italian sounds mushy. Susan Gritton’s Donna Anna was the most complete performance – a large voice with personality – and Maximilian Schmitt’s Don Ottavio the sweetest. A good night for Scotland’s hungry opera lovers – and for Ticciati. () www.sco.org.uk